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American Fork Children’s Justice Center opens to give children a safe space to heal



Brynn Carnesecca | Lehi Free Press

During the prosecution and investigative periods of an abuse case, children and families can often feel overwhelmed by the intimidating processes they must go through. The child may go through many exams, interviews and other bewildering experiences depending on the nature of the case. Often, these processes can further frighten and traumatize the child. 

Children’s Justice Centers all over Utah understand this phenomenon. In contrast to a large facility with a corporate feel, their centers focus on creating a safe, home-like space of healing and communication. 

“The purpose of the Children’s Justice Center is to support children and their families throughout the criminal justice process, but it’s about so much more than coordinating the forensic interview and helping with the medical exam. It is really about empowering children with the tools they need to heal,” said Tracey Tabet, Children’s Justice Center director.

On Saturday, April 27, American Fork opened a new Children’s Justice Center adjacent to the library. Many staff, AF royalty and AF government leaders attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Although the building is over 150 years old, the staff and construction crew have done a marvelous job revamping the space to make it modern and safe. Inviting colors, a stained-glass door and artwork created by children create the most welcoming space possible for the kids. 

“Where you see a beautiful building, I see perseverance,” Tabet expressed. The entire building had to be repainted, framed and gutted to create the lovely structure seen today. 

The center does everything in its power to make children feel comfortable. Princess dresses sit on the porch, a fully functional kitchen provides snacks, and comfort items such as blankets and pillows can be found in nearly every room of the three-story center. In addition to the framework of the building, the center focuses an incredible amount of energy on giving children every opportunity to choose what feels most comfortable to them. 


“We know how overwhelming it can be for children and families when there is an allegation,” Tabet said. “It’s a difficult system to navigate. The job of the CJC is to provide that safe haven for the child and family and say, ‘You don’t have to figure this out alone.’” 

In interviews that may feel stressful or cause children to relive traumatic experiences, the center allows children to choose the room they would like to be interviewed in and whom they would like to interview them. By recording the interview, the children only have to tell their story once, opening the door for quicker healing. The center also helps children have safe experiences in the medical and forensics examination room. Their goal is to let the children know their bodies are OK and to give them a soft landing for a challenging situation. 

“We can’t control what happens to kids, but we can control the spaces we create to make them feel safe,” said American Fork Mayor Brad Frost. 

By tailoring the system to the child, the center displays its true focus–families and children. 

“I would love to be out of a job because that would mean we no longer have a problem with child abuse,” Tabet said. “But as long as we do, we will continue to ensure the children’s services are available.”

The building of the Children’s Justice Center has been in the works for many years, and the joy felt by the staff and leaders of American Fork is apparent. The center is a beacon of light, rooting for those in need and creating a warm environment. 

“It serves and protects the most vulnerable among us,” Mayor Frost expressed. “It really represents coming together for the underdogs.” 

Centered in American Fork, the center is in a prime location to invite children and their families throughout Utah County to receive the help and care these situations need. 


The center also provides unique opportunities for the community to get involved monetarily or as a volunteer. For more information or to visit the center, visit or stop by the location at 96 S. 100 E. American Fork.

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